Gov. Kate Brown Backs Bill to Limit Rent Increases Statewide

Saturday, January 12, 2019
Jefferson Public Radio

Gov. Kate Brown supports a bill that would limit how much Oregon landlords could increase rents and eliminate no-cause evictions of long-term tenants, her office said Friday.

Brown believes those ideas “are innovative and will give renters some peace of mind,” spokeswoman Kate Kondayen said.

The endorsement increases the likelihood Oregon will enact notable tenant protections amid a housing shortage after failing to pass similar laws in 2017.

Under the bill being pushed by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and state Sens. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, landlords of properties across the state could only raise rent by up to 7 percent per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index. That would amount to a statewide rent stabilization policy that officials say would be unique in the United States.

Rental properties that are less than 15 years old would be exempt from the 7 percent cap, and landlords could reset the rent at whatever they want if a tenant voluntarily leaves the property.

The bill also would prevent landlords from evicting tenants without cause after they’d lived in a property for more than one year — essentially banning what is commonly known as "no cause evictions." It would also create a new “for-cause” eviction framework that would increase the number of valid reasons a landlord evict, including the need for renovations or wanting to move a family member into the property. Many landlords using those new justifications would be required to give 90 days notice and provide the tenant a month’s rent for relocation expenses.

The bill is a major focus of Kotek, the most powerful lawmaker in the House, and Burdick, the Senate majority leader, in the legislative session that begins Jan. 22. The governor's support adds to that momentum.

Brown has not committed to the fine-grain details of the proposal, her office says, but after reading the bill language this week she plans to signal her support in an inaugural address she’s scheduled to give on Monday.

“She also understands that Oregon will be the first state to adopt such a policy, and we need to make sure we keep an eye toward the policy’s applicability in the varying housing markets across the state ...” Kondayen said Friday. “The governor is ready to work with the Legislature to make sure that Oregonians today and tomorrow benefit from this legislation.”

The tenant protection bill is the Legislature’s second high-profile crack at rent control since 2017. That year, the House passed a bill that would have allowed cities to limit rent hikes, among other provisions, but the effort died in the Senate without coming up for a vote.

In an interview Thursday, Burdick said she believes this time will be different.

“This was a hard negotiation,” Burdick said. “Kudos to the speaker for all her work on this. I’m optimistic we can get it through quickly.”

That doesn’t mean the bill would pass without controversy. Since Willamette Week first reported details of the proposal, some tenant advocates have lambasted the bill, saying a 7 percent limit on rent increases is far too high.

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